Creating My I Can File

In order to live in discovery, we need to be able to acknowledge the fears that no longer serve the person we are choosing to become. When we make the decision to address them, we can find ways to move beyond them. One life strategy I use to help me continue moving forward, rather than being held captive by my fears, is what I call Optimal Reverse.

Each of us can remember stories or situations in which we were successful in the midst of challenges or were able to be resourceful and strong despite the odds.

When you choose to create your own I Can file, you make a deliberate choice to review a catalog of memories about those times when you felt especially heartened and gratified after a major accomplishment of that kind.

A vivid example in my life stems from the time in my childhood when I fell off a dock into a lake and hit my head on a rock. I didn’t know how to swim, and I clearly remember being completely alert while unable to move on the sandy lake bottom. That experience truly frightened me and made me choose to avoid water for the next 20 years. Then, at age 37, I saw my children and extended family enjoying the water at our family lake cabin, and I made a decision to try swimming again. Thanks to a very patient mother-in-law, I learned to swim in mid-life. The exhilaration I felt was highly empowering.

From then on, as I found myself confronting other fears, I would always remind myself how I had summoned my courage and learned to swim when I was 37 years old!  Addressing and overcoming my fear taught me that, although I’d had a very frightening experience as a child, this single occurrence in water did not need to define me. With love and support, I was able to accomplish something I’d thought was impossible. Practicing this kind of thinking—remembering I Can—has continued to empower me through many changes that might otherwise have overwhelmed me.

If you have a catalog of stories like these in your memory, you can revisit them whenever you’re faced with a new challenge that makes you resistant or fearful. You can retrieve your I Can file and recall the times when you were able to succeed or when your strength and perseverance surprised you. Then you can remember how it felt when you first knew that, indeed, there had been a favorable outcome. These feelings of happiness, pride, or even triumph will serve as a reminder that you have the resourcefulness within you to address the current situation.

Take plenty of time to develop your catalog. Some important memories might not occur to you right away. Make it a long list, and enjoy playing with words to create titles for the stories.

Carefully chosen trusted friends can be a valuable support when engaging in this life strategy. Many times others will remember situations or details you have forgotten. Their perspective can help you recognize the courage you displayed at a certain point in your life. I have found that three or four people is probably the maximum number to assemble for sharing fears, vulnerabilities, risks taken, and celebration. The beauty of doing this in a small group is that hearing others’ stories might jog your memory for other times you have succeeded despite obstacles.

Our ever-growing list of I Can stories will serve to remind us of our strength, determination, perseverance, and resilience. In the telling, they reinforce the neural pathways in our brain to support the person we are becoming. Often these group storytelling sessions are times filled with laughter, admiration, acknowledgment, and appreciation—and who can’t use more of that?